Federer Begins No. 1 Bid In Style
Roger Federer began his quest to return to No.1 in the ATP Rankings for the first time in over five years with a 6-1, 6-2 win over qualifier Ruben Bemelmans at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.
Federer, who will overtake Rafael Nadal at the top of the ATP Rankings if he reaches the semi-finals, moved to within just two wins of the achievement after his 47-minute, first-round win over the World No. 116.
Watch Highlights: Roger's Having Fun Chasing No. 1 In Rotterdam
“[It was] very surprising how good things went today,” admitted Federer. “I think the key was to start off well and put Ruben (Bemelmans) under pressure right away and make him feel like he had to do something special.”
The top seed raced to a one-set lead in just 18 minutes against his Belgian opponent, dropping just four points on serve as he won clinched set point with a put-away forehand winner. The second set continued in much the same vein as the opener, with Federer immediately breaking and consolidating to love for a 2-0 lead. Federer had two break points for a double-break lead in the next game, but the qualifier held firm to keep the deficit to a single break.
Federer did get the second break in the penultimate game of the match, rifling a backhand passing shot that Bemelmans could only return short before the World No. 2 swatted the ball into the open court. The two-time champion then completed a perfect set on serve, winning 16 out of 16 service points, holding to love for the fourth time in a row to secure his place in the second round.
The 36-year-old has now moved one step closer to becoming the oldest World No. 1 in history, with Andre Agassi currently holding the record. The American last held the top spot on 7 September 2003 at 33. Federer’s is yet to lose a match against his next opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber. The 20-time Grand Slam champion leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 12-0.
“It's a different match, changing from lefty to righty,” said Federer. “I just hope I can play a good match. It is a sprint to the finish.
“The beginning will be crucial tomorrow, you don't want to fall behind, you want to stay focussed all the way. Any lapses could mean that you get in trouble. But, I enjoy playing against Philipp (Kohlschreiber), I played really good against him at the US Open so I hope I can keep that up tomorrow night.”
Italy's Andreas Seppi pulled the upset of the day at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament by defeating third seed Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old needed one hour and 17 minutes to dispatch the 20-year-old German. Zverev, a quarter-finalist in 2016, managed to convert just two of his six break point opportunities (4/5 for Seppi).
With the win, World No. 81 Seppi moves to 1-1 in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Zverev. He will face the winner of the second-round match between France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Russian Daniil Medvedev for a place in the semi-finals.